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THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Eating out can lead to weight gain and increase people's risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious health issues because popular menu items often have more fat, calories and saturated fat than meals typically prepared at home.
That's according to an expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and it's particularly worrisome since a LivingSocial Dining Out Survey revealed Americans eat out, on average, four to five times each week.
"When you combine weight gain and the poor eating habits that can come along with dining out, it could be a recipe for disaster for your heart health," Jody Gilchrist, nurse practitioner at the UAB Heart & Vascular Clinic at Acton Road, said in a university news release.
"If you eat out enough and are not careful about what you eat, you could be looking at metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, including high cholesterol and diabetes," Gilchrist added.
One additional meal eaten away from home each week can add roughly two extra pounds a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are ways people can avoid extra calories and protect their heart health when dining out, Gilchrist pointed out. She offered the following tips on how to make healthier choices at restaurants:
The American Heart Association provides more tips on how to eat healthy when dining out.